Many a night, whilst drunkenly staggering home down the Corso in Manly, Sydney, I’d pop into the pie shop and order myself a ‘Ned Kelly’; a delightful pastry filled with meat, cheese, bacon and a cracked egg – yum. Now in those first few months of scoffing said pies, I didn’t have a clue who this ‘Ned Kelly’ geezer actually was. I neglected to find out.
After a move to Melbourne, I decided to visit the Old Melbourne Gaol and Watchtower (if you are ever in Melbourne, do make sure you visit this place; it is absolutely brilliant, and reeks of history, and discontent). It was here that the famous bushranger, Ned Kelly, was hung.
A figure of great debate, Kelly had been described as a cold-blooded murderer, a folk hero, and a symbol of resistance against the Anglo-Australian ruling class.
The Notorious Ned himself, in all his bearded glory!
So Who Exactly Was Ned Kelly?
Edward “Ned” Kelly was born in 1854/55 in Beveridge, North of Melbourne. His father, John Kelly, was an Irish convict who was shipped to Tasmania for stealing two pigs. After his father’s death, Ned along with his mother and siblings acquired 80 acres of land near Eleven Mile Creek, Victoria. To this day the area is known as “Kelly Country”.
As a young man, Kelly clashed with the Victoria Police on many an occasion; he was suspected of stealing cattle, and even admitted to stealing over 280 horses. Eighteen charges in total were brought against Ned and his immediate family members; ranging from theft, assault and murder. After Ned killed three policemen, the colony proclaimed Kelly and his gang wanted outlaws.
Ned always maintained that the authorities in Australia were biased and unfair in their treatment of Irish Catholics. He dictated a famous letter, the ‘Jerilderie Letter’, which describes his view of his own activities and the treatment of his family and peers by the police, and other figures of standing in the community. However, can you really disregard all the crimes that Kelly was most definitely guilty of, in favour of blatant corruption within the authoritative infrastructure. Two wrongs don’t make a right after all…
“I could not help shooting there or else let them shoot
me which they would have done had their bullets been
directed as they intended them”
Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie Letter, 1879
What Happened to Ned?
After years of clashing with police, and living a life on the run; a final violent confrontation with the authorities took place at Glenrowen. Kelly was caught on the 28th June 1880, dressed in his homemade armour and helmet. Convicted of murder, Ned was hung at the Old Melbourne Gaol in November of the same year.
Ned Kelly’s homemade armour worn in the final showdown against the Victoria police.
The spot where poor old Ned was hung in Old Melbourne Gaol prison in 1880.
The plaque which hangs in Old Melbourne Gaol with Edward Kelly’s name (aka Ned) at the top of the list.
Source: © Jenna Collier
Ned has since become an iconic figure in Australian modern history, much like Robin Hood or Davy Crockett, albeit for very different reasons.